Dyslexia can be detected as early as preschool. The signs may be subtle at first, but if a child displays the following symptoms for longer periods of time, tests for dyslexia and other learning disabilities should be considered:
-Delayed speech. A child with dyslexia may show delayed development of speech and language skills.
-Problems with rhyming, recognizing letters and sounds, or blending letters to form words.
-Trouble learning new words or remembering the names of familiar objects.
-Difficulty understanding spoken language and following two-part instructions.
-Difficulties with motor skills such as writing, cutting with scissors or fine motor coordination tasks such as buttoning shirt buttons or tying shoelaces.
-A tendency to reverse or mirror letters, numbers and symbols when writing – b becomes d, 4 becomes 6 etc., even beyond age five when this is considered within normal development in some children.
-An inability to break down tasks into individual steps which then leads to a feeling of being overwhelmed by complex activities such as filling out forms or handwriting assignments.
Diagnosis of Dyslexia in Preschoolers
As more is learned about dyslexia, it has become apparent that it may be present in preschoolers. It is normal for kindergarten and elementary school-aged children to struggle with reading, spelling and writing because these skills are relatively new. However, when these struggles are identified before educational instruction begins, they may indicate the presence of dyslexia.
Because preschoolers cannot engage in the same academic activities as older, school-aged children, diagnosing dyslexia must occur by assessing how a child processes language-related tasks from a broader, functional perspective. This typically means that comprehensive evaluations will be conducted to assess auditory processing ability (how sound is interpreted and manipulated), phonemic awareness (focusing on sounds within words) vocabulary usage and development (comprehension of word use within context) motor skills (coordination between perception and response) as well as areas of visual processing not limited to yet involving alphabet recognition.
Depending on where a child’s strengths or weaknesses present themselves an early intervention plan can be structured to target those specific areas with strategies such as rapid automatic naming, multisensory reading instruction incorporating both visual tactile cues with sound association and interweaving literacy skills into everyday activities making them dynamic fun experiences where positive reinforcement can be created around newly learned successes. With appropriate support early on there is good evidence to suggest that young children do experience better social emotional adjustment in kindergarten when they have been previously diagnosed with dyslexia and exposed to measures used aimed at remediating their impairment.